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Viral video reveals well-funded tech startup pitched Tasing migrants from drones

“This is one of the most desolate parts of our southern border,” Resnick says in the video, according to The Intercept. “Every year, over $100 billion of narcotics and half a million people flow through areas just like this one.” The video was made during the Trump administration and at a time where Donald Trump promised to be more strict with immigration. Resnick noted some of Trump’s promises in the video, including a lack of a border wall.

“There’s no wall here,” Resnick said in the video, “and it probably wouldn’t work anyway because of the rough terrain and eminent domain issues.” He uses this to go into a pitch: “There is a solution.” 

Now 21, Resnick was about to be about 18 at the time of the video. He named his “solution” the “Wall of Drones,” glinting boxes that would be deployed across the border to detect “suspicious” people.

During the demonstration, the actor identified as “Jose” is seen walking when he is approached by the drone. When he allegedly refuses to show identification, the drone fires at him and Tases him. Using what many conservatives bank on to support anti-immigration platforms, Resnick said: “Every year, over $100 billion of narcotics and half a million people flow through areas just like this one.”

“A Peter Thiel-backed startup founder attached a taser to a drone and uses it to tase an actor playing a Latino,” Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign director at Mijente, a Latino advocacy and migrant rights group, told TRT World on Monday.

“This is a racist fantasy and this dehumanizing policing hardware should never be used. We demand a clear commitment from the Department of Homeland Security that they will not invest our tax dollars on this kind of weapon.”

In response to the video, Resnick told The Intercept that the video “is immature, deeply regrettable and not at all representative of the direction I have taken the company in since.” He claimed that the Wall of Drones was “never fully developed, sold, or used operationally” and was discontinued in 2018 because it is “prone to disastrous misuse … I agree that the technology as depicted is unethical and that is one of the reasons we created a set of Values and Ethics to guide our work.”

But despite Resnick claiming he had no intention to sell the product, The Intercept reports a patent in Resnick’s name was found to be applied for in both 2017 and 2018 for “Drone Implemented Border Patrol.” The patent read: “If a person is detected, an onboard facial recognition algorithm will attempt to identify the person … In one embodiment, the facial recognition algorithm works by comparing captured facial features with the U.S. Department of State’s facial recognition database.”

Additionally, sources familiar with Resnick and the video had things to say.

“He’s got this whole narrative about the shooting in Vegas, but the original idea was 100 percent to use drones to tase migrants,” a source with direct knowledge of Brinc told The Intercept. The source, who asked to remain anonymous, added that Resnick at the time showed little interest in drone “applications in the non-tasing immigrants business” even though there are “a million things you can use drones for that don’t involve electrocuting people.”

Advocates have raised concerns over not only the video but companies that are using technology with violent incentives.

“The Biden administration and Congress must not contract with companies like Brinc,” Mitra Ebadolahi, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said after reviewing the video. “Doing so promotes profits over people and does nothing to further human safety or security.” Ebadolahi told The Intercept that the Wall of Drones system is “particularly horrifying when one considers potential targets: unaccompanied children, pregnant people, and asylum-seekers searching for safety.”

She continued: “In an unregulated market, tech executives follow the money, and they engineer their products for buyers that promise large profits and little scrutiny. The most attractive government contracts are with our most over-funded and under-scrutinized agencies: law enforcement.”

Others shared similar sentiments, noting that “you cannot trust a company that is even putting ideas like this out into the world.”

“It’s terrifying to think that this is not just an awful idea that someone brings up in a brainstorming session, but [Brinc has] gone so far as to make the video,” Jacinta Gonzalez of Mijente, a Latino advocacy and migrant rights group, told The Intercept.

She added that avoiding such dangers in the future “not only requires commitments from this company to say that they won’t produce this type of drone, but it also requires local police departments, and ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and Border Patrol to all proactively say, ‘This is not the type of technology that we want to invest in, we would absolutely never implement something like this.’”

Activists are encouraging individuals to leave a review for Brinc Drones here: http://tinyurl.com/BrincDrones

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